New strat­egy needed to build homes for the most needy

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Jonathon Wingfield

I READ with in­ter­est the head­line pro­claim­ing there were 11,000 homes that had plan­ning per­mis­sion and were just wait­ing for builders to get started. All of this in just one north­ern city.

The in­fer­ence was clear; we have thou­sands of homes in towns and cities across the coun­try wait­ing to be built by the pri­vate sec­tor. So why don’t they just get on with it in­stead of bla­tantly land bank­ing?

Un­for­tu­nately, the re­al­ity is not quite so straight­for­ward. It is true that in some ar­eas, the num­ber of homes com­pleted an­nu­ally is less than a quar­ter of those built at the peak of the build­ing boom. It is also true that de­mand con­tin­ues to out­strip sup­ply with al­most 21,000 peo­ple on the coun­cil’s wait­ing list in Brad­ford alone. Why then are all th­ese ap­proved hous­ing schemes not be­ing built and why are we con­tin­u­ally fail­ing to meet our tar­gets to tackle the UK’s hous­ing cri­sis?

Many sites with valid plan­ning per­mis­sion were pur­chased at the height of the build­ing boom. Now, with ris­ing con­struc­tion costs and poor end val­ues it does not make fi­nan­cial sense to bring some of th­ese schemes for­ward in the short term.

De­mand, par­tic­u­larly for af­ford­able hous­ing, has changed. It is fam­ily homes that are needed, not hun­dreds of high-rise city-cen­tre apart­ments that form the bulk of th­ese per­mis­sions. In ad­di­tion, the forth­com­ing changes to hous­ing ben­e­fit will have a marked ef­fect. Where there is un­der oc­cu­pancy, ten­ants will re­ceive a re­duc­tion in their in­come. This has al­ready seen a shift in the mix of new schemes be­ing brought for­ward re­sult­ing in two-bed­room houses be­ing favoured over larger three- and four-bed fam­ily homes re­gard­less of lo­cal hous­ing de­mand.

There has been much made of re­lax­ing plan­ning leg­is­la­tion to stim­u­late growth. Re­gard­less of what politi­cians think, the fact re­mains it is not plan­ning leg­is­la­tion that is re­strict­ing devel­op­ment. De­spite strong ren­tal mar­kets, banks are still be­ing overly cau­tious in lend­ing to both de­vel­op­ers and those seek­ing mort­gages. Un­til this is­sue is dealt with we will never achieve mean­ing­ful growth.

Fur­ther­more, our plan­ning sys­tem doesn’t cause any­where near the same prob­lems as the lack of af­ford­able land and the de­mands for ex­ces­sive de­vel­oper con­tri­bu­tions. If land is be­ing banked there is lit­tle lo­cal au­thor­i­ties can do to make de­vel­op­ers start build­ing.

Sug­ges­tions to with­draw ex­ist­ing con­sents or prevent­ing the re­newal of plan­ning per­mis­sions, is not a long-term so­lu­tion and will only act as a de­ter­rent for de­vel­op­ers.

It is ac­knowl­edged that the con­struc­tion in­dus­try is the driv­ing force in cre­at­ing a healthy econ­omy. No other sec­tor has a rip­ple ef­fect more pow­er­ful, yet Government de­cided to slash af­ford­able hous­ing grant lev­els by al­most 50 per cent, se­ri­ously dam­ag­ing the abil­ity of many reg­is­tered providers to build.

If Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tions are hav­ing to bor­row more than 75 per cent of the cost of a house at com­mer­cial rates it is no won­der that they ques­tion the wis­dom of build­ing at all.

The Government needs to re­view fund­ing lev­els and re­lax the overly com­pli­cated sys­tem by which reg­is­tered providers have to work. In­creased in­vest­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor house build­ing pro­gramme would have a very di­rect and im­me­di­ate ef­fect in stim­u­lat­ing growth.

With few ex­cep­tions, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties own sig­nif­i­cant ar­eas of land that could be re­leased for hous­ing. While there is pres­sure from within to re­alise best value on the open mar­ket there is also an ar­gu­ment that ne­go­ti­at­ing with lo­cal hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions to de­velop th­ese for af­ford­able homes is the way for­ward.

A more prag­matic ap­proach to their dis­posal and re­quests for de­vel­oper con­tri­bu­tions as part of the plan­ning process would re­sult in a dra­matic and more sus­tained in­crease in hous­ing for the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety.

Jonathon Wingfield is MD of Aa­can­thus WSM Ar­chi­tects, Leeds.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.